Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bring On The Drano--It's Time to Watch Chopped!

I'm pretty sure it's not having a kitchen that drives me to watch the Food Network Channel. Trust me, I know exactly how loathsome it is, and yet I’m always thrilled to see the show Chopped.  That's the one where three Foodie Fascists ruin the lives of Four Aspiring Chefs by making them cook (at speeds so dangerous they slice off their limbs, hence the name Chopped) a creative, tasty, and lovely-to-look-at three course meal.

The rub, however, is not having to do this in twelve seconds flat, but having to do it with Satanic ingredients. Said ingredients, which range from Drano to cockroach filets, await them in boxes packed by Pandora, a.k.a. "mystery baskets."

Mystery? Try Jung's collective unconscious. Better yet, try looking in on one of my more obnoxious recurring dreams, the one where I am suddenly called on to cook for a crowd and must dash to the butcher to buy lots of meat. And, upon unwrapping my white paper package in my own (and considerably dream-improved) home, discover to my Absolute Shock and Primordial Horror that I have somehow purchased four pounds of snakes. 

(Or would it be snake. But just never mind.)

How can this be?
my dream-brain is screaming. When did butchers start selling snake(s)? And how in the world did I come to buy it? And without even noticing that I had bought it? And how can I possibly serve such grotesquery (let alone cook it since I can't bear to touch it or even regard it) to the hordes of hungry, unwitting guests who are, even now, approaching my door?

I've had this dream maybe four or five times and, as much as I abhor it and fear it, I've always drawn comfort from waking up to the Certainty that it really was "only a dream" and could never happen in Actual Life.

And then it happened. Maybe not in Actual Life, but on TV--which I use as a slightly less harmful substitute--and it happened—where else?—on Satan’s own Chopped. Yes, one day those poor beleaguered contestants opened their dreadful mystery baskets to find (along with the usual anvil and jackfruit) a white paper package that some might describe as slightly archetypal. 

And when they opened this archetypal package they saw exactly what I'd seen in my dream: a pile of vile (albeit also dead, skinned, and, thank you Jesus!, decapitated) snake(s).

The female contestant almost passed out while the males grimaced and then trundled on. And where were they trundling to? Ah yes, to the special Chopped pantry and fridge from which they can draw less crazy fare (arugula, shallots, butter, crème freche) to augment (but not overwhelm!) the horrible things they must use in their meals.

Normally, this is when I love Chopped the most—that pivotal moment when the panicked contestants must decide if it’s better to bake than to broil, to fry than to poach, or just chop it all raw and call it Cobb salad. The tiny part of my mind that wasn’t quite screaming (due to still working on Chopped autopilot), wondered if one of the aspirants would be gathering limes for a mean Snake Ceviche, or beating up eggs for a grand Snake Soufflé.

Thankfully, this wondering lasted only two seconds before the screaming part of my mind--which knew I would die if I witnessed either preparation, or any Snake Preparation at all--made me grab the remote and turn Chopped to OFF.
After which I drew comfort from deciding I had dreamed the whole thing.  And with no one to verify that I hadn’t (I’d watched it with Boo, an unconscious cat),  I was able to think this was actually so.  Which was good, because it enabled me to: (1) not lose my mind;  (2) keep watching Chopped where, to my sadistic delight, contestants kept getting eliminated for allowing the blood from their wounds to seep onto their food.  

But then one day--and you knew this was coming--I saw a Chopped rerun, and there it all was.

Totally real and just as atrocious.  And this time I ran out of the house.  


  1. Almost as effective a weight-loss program as the doggy terror diet one of my cats used to practice. Anyway, I thought only cowboys cooked snake(s).

  2. Dear Jean,

    The only thing that I can relate to your delightful column (other than someone cooking spider's, maybe) would be the time (in a former life, when priorities were different) that I was eating in front of the TV showing a football game.. the game where Joe Theismann had his leg broken.. this was not just a break but a redesign of his leg.. a joint where one never existed before. According to Wiki, this was in 1985. They also said and I quote: "the tackle was dubbed "The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget" by The Washington Post.[14]

    I just about hurled! When my appetite finally returned after about an hour, I settled down to finish my meal in front of a different game just in time to watch a horrifying replay of the leg once again going off on it's own!

    I have been following your travails silently but with the usual silly grin pasted to my mug that you manage to put there so effortlessly. Thank you, Jean, for making the days go down easier.

    I'm currently in serious pursuit of a grant (by hoping to walk near a spendthrift, mind-reading gazillionaire) that will allow me to construct the "Brown Everlasting Home for Mentals & Cats -- All Suites with Washers and Dryers.. cowboys need not apply" At the end of the occupant's life the unit is hermetically sealed forever, assuring that this one more move is the final one! Be assured that at the beginning of construction I will send you a personal, hand engraved invitation.

    Your old Nebraska pal,.. Jim

  3. Jim, so nice to hear your voice once again! I can't wait for construction to start!

    And my beloved Benf: Cowboys don't cook snakes, they ARE snakes, and all of them should be thoroughly roasted.